To create a following online, one thing is pivotal for start-ups and, for that matter, any company: purpose.
That was just one of the many messages of Elisa Camahort Page, co-founder and COO of BlogHer, a web community dedicated to women’s blogs and media online, delivered on Monday. She spoke to Reynolds Week and Scripps-Howard Entrepreneurship Institute fellows at the Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.
BlogHer began as the project of three women bloggers looking to bolster female voices that had gone unheard in the blogging community. With a little bit of perseverance, it became a major player in the blogging world and was acquired in November by SheKnows Media.
It was the desire for a little “world domination” and to be the best in the business, Page said, that led to BlogHer’s success and its eventual purchase by SheKnows, which boasts 80 million unique visitors a month over its networks.
But the real secret for success online, according to Page, goes back to purpose. Startups need to have an idea of what they want to be guiding their content and business decisions.
“You need to serve the community you want to have, not necessarily the one you already have,” Page said.
With so many choices online, Page said followers leave communities that don’t have something to offer. If you aren’t useful, there isn’t much reason for followers to be there.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean niches are key. A unique voice or perspective that offers the chance for followers to have some fun while online has proven successful time and time again.
As Page said, some people could blog the phone book and still make it interesting.
Purpose should also guide the use of social media, which Page said has overtaken the importance of search engines for generating traffic. Each site, from Facebook to Pinterest, has a different purpose and audience that will use contents from sites in different ways.
The idea also carries over to raising funds and creating revenue. Having a clear and concrete idea of what and where a company is going means an easier time asking people for money and support.
That doesn’t mean a strict rigidness is required for success. Page believes in the idea of being able to “pivot,” staying flexible and adapting to the inevitable change that companies face.
But there are just some things, and Page pointed to her own experiences with BlogHer for examples like future investments and content development, that need money if they are ever going to become a reality. Demonstrating how it fits in to your overall mission matters.
In the end, purpose is even imperative for the life of the entrepreneur, which, in Page’s experience, is almost completely void of balance. Having a goal and knowing what it will take makes risk much easier to navigate.
Page suggested asking one simple question when starting up online and in business: “What is the worst that could happen?” After that, it’s turning any fears concrete and avoiding the abstract.
If it isn’t going to end in death or injury, Page concluded, it’s certainly a risk worth taking.